Tennessee Senate considering taking 1-week recess

Citing the pace of their counterparts in the lower chamber, the state Senate is considering taking a one-week recess.

Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, filed a resolution on Thursday that would allow the upper chamber to temporarily adjourn for the final week of April.

Several Senate committees have concluded their business for the year in recent weeks, signaling that the chamber is close to wrapping up its work.

Recess could allow time for catch-up

On the Senate floor, Norris said the one-week recess is necessary in order to allow the House to catch up on various issues, although he did not point to any specific issue, while offering a bit of a jab at the the lower chamber.

“Every time we try to be open and forthright about our planning and our schedule, somebody in another chamber in this capitol gets their pants in a twist,” he said.

Norris said his resolution was needed “just in case we continue to have no sense of progress in the House.”

'Don't want people just sitting around'

Norris's comments came immediately after Senate finance committee chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, laid out a schedule that he said would indicate the House could take up Gov. Bill Haslam's gas tax proposal, which seeks to raise the tax on gasoline and diesel over a three-year period, on the floor on April 20. Watson said if everything goes according to schedule, the chamber would work on the budget during the first week of May.

In the event that the House follows the schedule Watson laid out, the Senate's temporary recess would not be necessary.

After the floor session, Norris said the move could be necessary because "we're so far ahead that there's nothing to do but sit around."

McNally said the Senate is "nearing the finish line and we don't want people just sitting here doing nothing."

Alternative gas tax proposal

On Wednesday, House leadership, including Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said they are working on an alternative proposal to Haslam's plan. The new plan is expected to be introduced next week when the gas tax bill is taken up in the full House finance committee.

There have been several previous efforts to alter the transportation funding proposal in the House, which has led to several lengthy discussions and legislative maneuvers, which have slowed down action on the issue.

The House has also balked at the Senate's inclusion of property tax relief for eligible veterans and the elderly, which has led to another disagreement between two chambers.

There has been significantly less division in the Senate on the gas tax proposal. As recently as Wednesday, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said he unequivocally supported Haslam's proposal.

'A lot of work to do'

After the House floor session ended, House Republican Caucus chairman Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, pointed to the fact that the chamber has significantly more committees than the Senate, adding that there are still many bills that need to be taken up in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"It sounds like they've got a lot of work to do," he said. "If they don't like the way that we're doing business, it doesn't mean that they should stop doing business over there."

House Majority Leader Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said he would be reaching out to Norris to discuss the differences between the two chambers on the transportation funding proposals.

Reach Joel Ebert at jebert@tennessean.com or 615-772-1681 and on Twitter @joelebert29.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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